Turkey prevents more than 100 Germans from returning to the Federal Republic. There are currently 55 German citizens in Turkish custody, and 49 others are subject to an exit ban. This emerges from the response of the Federal Foreign Office to a request from the left-wing member of the Bundestag Gökay Akbulut, which our Istanbul office has received. Akbulut explained that many Germans were being held for posts on social media that the Turkish judiciary interpreted as criminal insults to the president or as support for terrorist organizations. She called on the federal government to take a “bolder” stand against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The numbers came out at the start of the holiday season, when millions of Germans and German-Turks travel to Turkey to vacation or visit relatives. Germans of Turkish origin in particular run the risk of being arrested and brought to court because of online statements. The reason for this is often criticism of Erdogan or comments on Kurdish politics, which are seen as support for the terrorist organization PKK.

Germany and the EU have been criticizing for years that Turkey is moving away from Europe’s ideas about the rule of law. Critical statements, which are protected by freedom of expression in the EU, are punishable by imprisonment in Turkey. Erdogan’s government rejects the accusations and, for its part, accuses the Europeans of not taking decisive action against anti-Turkish organizations in their countries.

During his first visit to Turkey in March, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) addressed the imprisonment of German citizens in Turkey and said that there were differences between the governments on this issue.

The new numbers of detained German citizens show a decrease in cases compared to the previous year, but do not indicate a fundamental change in course in Turkey. In August, the federal government declared that it knew of 119 German citizens who were in prison or who were banned from leaving the country; this year there are 104 so far.

The answer to the question from left-wing politician Akbulut did not reveal which regions in Germany the detainees and detainees came from. It is also unclear how many German citizens are being held for political reasons. In Germany, for example, the Turkish secret service collects information about suspected government opponents in Facebook groups and German-Turkish groups. In some cases, the Turkish judiciary can also access official documents from Germany. Three years ago, Cologne-based German-Kurd Gönül Örs was arrested in Istanbul because she took part in an action by a PKK-affiliated association in 2012. The case against her in Germany had been dropped, but documents from the Federal Criminal Police Office were passed on to the Turkish judiciary and were included in the Turkish criminal proceedings against her.

According to Akbulut, information about Turkish and Kurdish clubs in Germany could have reached Turkey. Your office has the verdict of a Turkish court, in which the names of more than 100 board members of Kurdish associations in Germany are listed.

In response to another request in April, the federal government did not want to say whether such data had been passed on “for reasons of state welfare”.